Q878: What are psychoactive substances?

Psychoactive substances, previously known as legal highs, are substances with stimulant or mood-altering properties whose sale and use is not yet banned by current legislation regarding the misuse of drugs.

Many psychoactive substances were previously legal because they had not yet been assessed for their harm and considered for control under the misuse of drugs legislation, but this did not mean that they were safe and many have been found to have components of illegal drugs. Some people are under the assumption that they are harmless; in reality this is not the case as the number of deaths in connection to them is increasing.

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has now created offences in relation to psychoactive substances. It is now an offence to:

  • produce a psychoactive substance.
  • supply or offer to supply a psychoactive substance.
  • possess a psychoactive substance with intent to supply.
  • import or export a psychoactive substance.
  • possess a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution.

The police have powers under the Act to seize and detain such substances in relation to the above offences.

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